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How to Avoid Law Firm SEO Scams

Aug 20, 2014 | by Stacey Burke | Google | SEO
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On every lawyer listserv I belong to, in every marketing group I attend, on almost every phone call I have with a potential law firm client, I am asked the same thing – can you do my SEO or have you heard of so-and-so random SEO provider? I wonder if people even really know what SEO means beyond the tantalizing “appearing ‘page one’ on Google.”

SEO should be undertaken only as part of a comprehensive plan designed to build value over time. Search engine optimization that sounds too good to be true should be avoided. Not only does scam SEO waste time and money, it will damage your website and your law firm’s digital presence. Google gives users the same advice.

Four Big SEO Red Flags: Buyer Beware

Massive Link-Building

Over 10 years ago, it was possible to “blast” links pointing your website to hundreds or even thousands of websites and see long-lasting results. Some SEO companies still offer extensive link-building as part of their pre-packaged solutions.

While some link-building, if done correctly, can be extremely valuable, many SEO companies focus too heavily on links and will likely do your law firm website more harm than good. Significant link-building in a short amount of time generally only yields temporary results, and Google will catch on to your website’s “unnatural link building” and penalize your search engine rankings (or “place you in the penalty box” as some call it). If your SEO provider signs you on for a long-term pre-packaged SEO solution, Google may even blacklist your website so that it will not show up in search results at all.

Links to or from your law firm website built in this manner are more likely to hurt your site than to help it. Building links too quickly and to the wrong sites is now considered “black-hat SEO” and could damage the credibility of your website in search engines.

Page One and Page Rank Promises

Most lawyers receive unsolicited emails from SEO “experts” offering page one results or your money back. When anyone offers you guaranteed rankings, it is usually a scam. No one can promise you any type of rankings in any set time period.  It is not possible. The best way to achieve first-page rankings is to perform an audit of your law firm website. This is something you can do, or you can hire us to perform a digital assets audit for you. There are various online tools that will help you research the various aspects of your site to see where you can improve.

Do not do business with anyone that promises a particular page rank, or page ranking at all in a short time frame. Google ranks websites periodically and it is not possible to speed up the process. It can take weeks or months to get a page ranked. Page ranks are dynamic, and not assigned one time and never adjusted. Page rank is also only one factor that Google and other search engines use to determine organic search results.  It is one of, not the only factor in determining where the search engines will place your law firm website in search results.

I’m a Google Insider or Partner

There are many companies who claim to know someone at Google or to have insider information. Since most Google employees don’t know the details of its algorithm, it is pretty much a bold-faced lie when someone on the outside tells you that they do. In addition, all search engine company employees sign confidentiality agreements, so even if they were privy to the secret sauce, they could not legally share it. No SEO company has a “special relationship” or access to a “priority submit” with Google. Any SEO firm that makes this claim is simply lying to you.

While Google did create the designation of “Google Partner,” it is not as exclusive as it sounds, and Google has no real “partnerships” in the SEO business. The only certification one has to take in order to become a Partner is in AdWords (aka paid search advertising – where Google makes money). An agency (or my French bulldog) can become a Google Partner by signing up online and going through a few relatively simple processes. Google even says it, “Anyone can join Google Partners.” So before the Google Partners website badge impresses you (not unlike some of the nifty lawyer badges we love to get for our own websites), make sure that you read up on what the designation really means.

Asking any digital marketing vendor, especially a website designer or SEO for a light audit of your existing digital assets is a great way to gauge their skill level before you sign on to spend a significant amount each month.

Underpriced or Overpriced

An SEO vendor whose price is not in line with the market average should spark fear in the hearts of even the bravest lawyers. On the cheap side, you get what you pay for. A low cost will buy you low quality work. On the high side, a price that seems ridiculously high probably is. SEO is hard work and takes some serious time to do correctly. You are better off learning how to do it yourself than paying some “SEO expert” who claims that he can do it for an absurdly low price. 

For your frame of reference, $100 per month is way too low and $20,000 per month is unnecessarily high in most cases.  Get a full list of services the company plans to provide (I hope these are listed in their contract) and take that list to other companies to obtain comparable price quotes for the same work. It will be eye-opening. 

How Law Firms Can Make Smart SEO Decisions

Check the reputation of the company. 

While you can go to Google and type in “Company Name + Scam” and see what happens, the best way to check the reputation of the company is to ask about past clients, and if you can contact these past client references, ideally in your industry. Call them. Prior to doing business with any SEO agency, ask if they have provided SEO solutions in your market (aka the legal industry) because industry-related experience can make a huge difference. 

We Can Tell You If It Sounds “Spammy” or “Scammy” -- Contact us today.

Sidebar stacey e burke About Stacey Burke

Stacey E. Burke is both an experienced trial lawyer and law firm business consultant. She works with lawyers and law firms around the world to improve their business development, marketing, and infrastructures.


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